Knife arches and wands in use at London colleges

Stop and search powers and anonymous reporting also in use at capital's colleges

Government wants teachers to take responsibility for tackling knife crime – but the truth is that its own austerity measures are to blame, writes Anjum Peerbacos

Seven further education colleges in London use knife detection wands and six use knife arches, according to new data published by Ofsted today.

The data also shows that five use stop and search, and seven use anonymous reporting procedures. 

The data follows a report published by Ofsted in March this year, in which they summarised their findings from a research project on knife crime in education in London. The watchdog had 107 responses to the survey they sent schools, colleges and pupil referral units. 

Just one of the 12 FE colleges involved in the research said they had no procedure for detecting knives. 


Listen: How safe is your college?

Background:  Machetes, metal bars and gun found in colleges

Opinion:  Why we must face up to violence in colleges


At the time, recommendations in the report suggested that “schools and colleges should share full information with one another when pupils and learners move schools, pupil referral units or alternative provision or move to further education, to safeguard them and other pupils and learners.”

The report also recommended that “pan-London safeguarding partners should provide challenge to schools and colleges and, when necessary, drive improvement in how well schools and colleges share information with others to promote children’s safety when those children move schools or begin further education, including via a managed move or when they are permanently excluded”.

In June, a Unison survey revealed that machetes, hammers, metal bars and a gun had been either recovered in colleges, or used in student-on-student assaults, gang attacks or violent incidents against staff.

The survey found that nine in 10 respondents said they had no training on dealing with teenagers who bring weapons into college, and one in five admitted that they didn’t feel safe at work. 

At the time Tes contributor Tom Starkey, a former college teacher, wrote that when it comes to violence in colleges, there was a tendency to turn away.

He wrote: “There is an opportunity to hold our gaze and assess threat in a realistic manner. What are the security procedures in your college? Do you know what to do if there is a fight? Are there trained staff? Does there need to be more? 

“As someone who has both stopped and sustained injury in their FE career during bouts of violence by students, I know that having a plan and being confident in college procedures – although no guarantee of prevention – goes a long way towards putting your mind at ease.”

Eddie Playfair, senior policy manager at the Association of Colleges, said students find the use of knife arches, wands and random searches – as part of a range of safety measures – reassuring. 

"There are very few violent incidents in London colleges and safety on college campuses is a paramount concern. London colleges promote a culture of respect and non-violence which contributes to institutional as well as individual resilience. 

"Colleges are very active in educating students about the risks and about how to keep themselves safe beyond the college campus and they work in partnership with local authorities, the police and other agencies. However, colleges receive no additional funding for security measures and are looking to the Violence Reduction Unit for more support for youth safety and youth activities," he said. 

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